by Brandy Webb
I know some people, me included, that struggle with truly loving themselves. I am not meaning that we hate ourselves. We just struggle with loving ourselves by liking who we are instead of wishing to be something else. Some of us also struggle with loving ourselves by not forgiving ourselves when we make mistakes. Instead we rehash the mistakes over and over, wishing we could go back in time and have a “do-over.” There are also some of us that struggle with loving ourselves because we are afraid that we will end up becoming prideful and start having the worldly self-love of caring about themselves more than we care about anyone else or esteeming oneself above others.
What we need to learn is how to have Godly self-love. Godly self-love is liking who God created you to be and projecting that onto others. It is not prideful; nor is it self-condemning to the point where you have a prideful humility. It is being grateful for how God made you, you as a unique beautiful person that He is using to spread the good news of Jesus Christ.
Jesus tells us to love our neighbors as ourselves (Mark 12:31). Well, we can’t love our neighbors correctly if we can’t love ourselves correctly. The word “love” in these two scriptures is the Greek word agapoa (ag-ap-ah'-o G25) and “means to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly.” Thayer’s and Strong’s state that agapoa is from the word phileo (G5368), which goes even further, “to approve of, to like, to treat affectionately or kindly, to welcome, to be fond of”…and so on. Therefore, we not only should treat those we come in contact with, “our neighbors,” with kind affection, but we must treat ourselves that way also.
So, since I find this hard to do sometimes, I started thinking about what I needed to change in order to teach myself how to love myself, so that I can love others better. And these three things popped first into my head:
Stop negative talk and thought. Jesus states that out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks (Luke 6:45). Well, I am tired of my heart being so negative. I need to start holding every thought captive in Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5), and start letting His words of truth and love to fill my heart and mind. There is a lot of power in our words. God created man in his image, and He created everything through the Word. Therefore, since we are His creation, our words also hold power. “Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruits” (Proverbs 18:21). Who wants to eat dead fruit? We need to speak words of life, even to ourselves. When we do this it will change how we speak to others, and therefore spread the light of life around us and inside us.
My next thing was I must learn to forgive myself. I realized if I can’t forgive myself, then I may not get forgiven. That may sound harsh, but Jesus stated that we have to forgive others, and when we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven (Matthew 6:15). Well, I believe this can apply to forgiving oneself also. I am belittling His sacrifice when I don’t forgive myself. I am saying to Him, I am unforgivable and that is wrong. For love keeps no records of wrongs (1 Corinthians 13:5). Therefore, in order for me to love myself, I must destroy all those records in my head. For as far as the East is from the West so my sins are removed from me (Psalm 103:12).
The third thought was that I need to be grateful for how God made me, and to realize He knows I am not perfect. I know that is actually two points in one, but they work together. In Psalms 139:14, David, a man who made mistakes, was flawed, states that “I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” He understood that even though, he was imperfect, he was still “fearfully and wonderfully made” by God. We are all part of God’s creation, and we must remember that when He created man and woman, He saw that all He had made was good.
I am realizing that the old saying that “you can’t love others, if you can’t love yourself” has some truth to it. Yet, it would be a better saying that “you can’t love others at your fullest if you can’t love yourself” because I do love others, but I believe I could love them better if I learn to love myself better. If we are quick to criticize ourselves, we are most likely quick to criticize others. If we are constantly thinking and talking negative about/to ourselves, we are most likely thinking and talking negatively about others also. In other words, how we treat ourselves will affect how we treat others. Therefore, learn to love yourself because you know that you are loved by your Heavenly Father and Messiah, and then project that love unto others.